First of all, I know. From the second the announcement dropped earlier this year, you, too, were probably more than a little apprehensive about the idea to turn Minority Report, the mind-bending, ironically prophetic Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise film based on Philip K. Dick’s classic short story of the same name, into a television show. The movie itself was informed by a literal summit of the world’s foremost futurists — among them architects, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, and journalists — to get it just right, and that was a two-hour film squeezed out of a 13,700-word novella; and even then, has anyone ever successfully made a good futurist/dystopian show that wasn’t set in space?
But personally, I was pleasantly surprised by Minority Report’s pilot. Exuding the same sort of fandom vibes that surrounded the first season of Sleepy Hollow (granted, perhaps it’s the remarkably similar setup — black policewoman protagonist holds clueless white guy’s hand as he helps her save people — but this time, the white guy is literally the only white guy in the main cast, and way more delicate than Ichabod ever was), Minority Report the show takes the DNA of Dick’s work and Spielberg’s vision and does what modern adaptations should: update them to reflect how the world has changed since the story was published (in this case, 1956).
We open, as I suppose we had to, with a prologue, one that explains everything you need to know if you were too lazy to watch the movie or read the story (and shame on you): Dash, Arthur, and Agatha are the “precogs,” three children who were rehabilitated from brain death at birth with an experimental therapy that gives them the precognitive ability to foretell crimes within a 100-mile radius. Their gifts were so powerful when used together that they were swiftly weaponized, as the short story and movie both detail, imprisoned, and literally used as part of a government “Pre-Crime” unit bent on stamping out crime before it occurs. Of course, that system had a few fatal flaws (most of which could have been identified in a junior-college Philosophy 101 course) that ultimately torpedoed the entire operation, leaving us to stumble around in the darkness among maybe-criminals once more. (Side note: I loved that the movie’s conclusion was summed up by the narrator as just, “It ended.”)
Cut to a few years even further into the future — it’s 2065 — and the now-adult precogs have been set free to lead normal lives (or, let’s be real, as normal as they can be when their psyches are constantly barraged by nightmarish premonitions of violent felonies). The choice to set up the show as a cop drama is a little corny, I’ll admit; still, it feels functional, even logical, to proceduralize the precogs’ new experiences, with the help of Lara Vega, a badass futurecop living in a post-Precrime world of law enforcement.
ANYWAY. Now we meet Dash, our wide-eyed protagonist precog, at a bar, where he tells a waitress she’s going to need a mop seconds before another waitress spills a few drinks. Suddenly Dash is seized by a much more overwhelming vision: a woman being thrown out a window at 8:42 a.m. in Bartlett Plaza. It’s a good thing he’s such a good artist, because he’s able to immediately sketch what he sees in a notebook and takes off to stop it, jumping the turnstile at the metro and sliding into a very sleek car covered in animated nudge-nudge marijuana-tea advertising. In Bartlett Plaza with four minutes to go, he goes into the wrong building, misinterpreting the piecemeal flashes he’s getting, and only makes it back out into the square before the woman flies out of the correct window, as predicted. Dash is very upset.
Up in the apartment, Lara Vega and her colleague are sweeping the room using high-tech Google Glass–type contacts and earpieces that appear to bring TARU directly to both the crime scene and the 21st century. Vega reenacts the crime based on the state of the room and concludes that the victim could’ve gotten away but was protecting someone else: a little girl, hiding in a secret cupboard and found using said contact’s infrared sensor. There’s also a little expository dialogue in which the two women lament the shuttering of the Precrime Unit. (This show has now passed the Bechdel-Wallace test and its POC counterpart in its first ten minutes — an effectively, if not subtly, conveyed mission statement.)
Dash disguises himself with one of those muscle-shock thingies from the movie and follows Vega and Co. back to headquarters (not creepy at all!), where a tour guide is giving a group of tween schoolchildren a history of Precrime (which we happen to conveniently overhear). In what is perhaps the worst part of this episode, three of them use a selfie drone — yep, a hovering camera. Their poses are straight-up painful to watch. Mercifully, we quickly cut to Vega incapacitating Dash upon discovering him lurking; he insists he just wanted to give her his little sketches of the killer. He zaps her in the leg with the thingie and escapes, leaving his backpack and notebook full of Felon Faces™ behind.
We meet Vega’s boss, Wilmer Valderrama, who has replaced his charming That ‘70s Show lisp with a creepy, serial-killer-meets-workplace-harassment vibe. He’s hungry for a promotion, we learn, but the real reason for their meeting is that he’s got a lead: The victim worked for a rehab center that specialized in treating a brain disorder that’s cropped up in Precrime prisoners (all of whom were set free after the Precrime Unit was abolished). They scan Dash’s little sketch and immediately find a match for the perp, a former Precrime prisoner and bioweapons dealer. They track him down at a random construction site, where he promptly allows himself to get killed by a half-molten steel beam after dramatically informing the officers, “You have no idea what’s coming!” This is also after Vega says, “Peekaboo, bitch!”
Dash goes home, where his sister Agatha is waiting. Agatha, who is dressed like a more agrarian Star Trek: The Next Generation ambassador, chastises him for meddling in law enforcement, insisting that it’s no use to try to save people, that people will try to exploit them again, and introducing the revelation that Dash’s visions are fragmented because he needs his twin Arthur’s visions (Arthur sees the victims’ and perpetrators’ names, whereas Dash gets the visuals) to complete the premonition. Dash gets frustrated and suddenly hangs up on her, and she collapses and vanishes — this was a highly advanced FaceTime call, not an in-person rendezvous.
Back at cop HQ, Vega’s colleague from the crime scene, whose name is Akeela, got a shot from that awful selfie drone of Dash, who has no records at all — “a ghost.” They check the “feeds” from the crime scene, which are maybe from people’s phones, and find him instantly. After deflecting her boss, Wilmer Valderrama, she heads for the diner where they’ve spotted him on some more cameras. (This casual use of private data was pretty terrifying; then again, it’s probably accurate. Also, was Akeela’s “Nobody hacks my database” supposed to be comforting?)
Vega barges in on Dash and his french fries at the counter, and he does his flustered, naïve, adult-baby thing as she accuses him of being a Peeping Tom to the murders of a bunch of women. He reveals his identity pretty quickly via another involuntary vision/seizure, drawing a crowd in the process. She helps him escape, and he explains the whole backstory; he’s reluctant, but she convinces him to help her Precrime it up – which is very, super illegal, for good reasons! — and he sketches the woman he saw die this time, the wife of Peter Van Eyck, the former deputy chief of Precrime turned mayoral candidate. They go to meet the couple (and their impossibly adorable baby), who casually mention a rally on the National Mall the next day. Vega tells Van Eyck that Precrime was why she became a cop, and she’s sad they shut it down before she graduated from the academy; Van Eyck explains he has a new idea, called Hawkeye, which is basically Precrime except with “hard data” instead of the precogs. Cue a bunch more surveillance-related red flags! His people demonstrate how the program helps them prescreen crowds before rallies like Van Eyck’s, using the first now-dead murderer as an example of a “dismissed” threat (because he’s dead).
Vega and Dash go to Open Vistas, the rehab clinic where the first victim worked. It’s full of Precrime prisoners who have gone literally insane from being locked up. Dash remembers all of them, and feels horrible because he realizes his abilities drove them to madness. “It’s not your fault the containment system fried their minds,” Vega says, sounding super heartless. The pair meet a woman, Liz, whose father was a Precrime arrestee for (not) murdering his wife, who died of grief anyway before he was released post-Precrime. Then they go up to the roof to meet the man, Mason Rutledge, who now raises and controls passenger pigeons with brain implants as a hobby with an electronic glove, to ask him why he had been researching security protocol for the Van Eyck event. Rutledge plays dumb, but his daughter notes how brilliant he used to be. “I still have my moments,” he replies, foreshadowingly. The birds return to their cages in very Hitchcockian fashion, but then they suggest they might arrest him and he FLIPS out and jumps off the building … onto a fire escape. He gives chase, Vega follows, but he gets away when she nearly falls (Dash catches her, of course).
Vega brings Dash back to her place, where he looks through her photos as season 75 of The Simpsons plays in the background (oh, Fox). Her mom and a little boy we learn is her younger brother, not son, show up with groceries and totally don’t believe her assertion that Dash is a “colleague.” Good to know sexism is still alive and well in 50 years.
Vega shows Dash her dad’s old vinyl collection (which, OH, HA HA, GREAT JOKE, includes Iggy Azalea, an “oldie”), and Vega’s mom says she met Vega’s dad on Tinder. I really like the intentions behind these gags – they remind me of the similarly teasing but still much better jokes about things like racism and Starbucks in Sleepy Hollow — but it’d be great if they didn’t have an expiration date of about 2017.
We learn that Vega’s dad was killed in the pre-Precrime days, signaling that she has a lot of anger issues. Dash explains that he doesn’t remember anything from ages 14 to 24, when he was hooked up; his twin, Arthur, left the island where they were kept first, and he “only cares about himself,” so he’s probably not going to help them, BUT maybe Wally, the guy who helped the precogs transition back into normal life, can. Wally is a (understandably) paranoid shut-in wearing a quilt as a robe who misses his little babies. As he searches for a projector hookup for Dash’s brain so he and Vega can see his vision too, the pair explain the “minority reports”: Precrime needed the public to believe the precogs’ visions were destiny in order for it to “work,” and the precogs sometimes saw stuff that didn’t come to pass, so those were put in secret files. They hook Dash up and see that his vision involved a mass murder, not a single one, and definitely involved bioweapons obtained from that now-dead murderer … and Rutledge’s birds. But it’s not enough, so Dash, frazzled by the pain from the projector, finally decides it’s time to visit Arthur.
Arthur is a very well-dressed, very handsome schmuck. He’s an estate planner who uses his ability on the black market to get rich from the deaths of others. Dash asks how much the information will cost them, but he waves the question off and gives them the name of an abandoned shopping mall right away. As they leave, he asks Vega out for drinks, creepily pointing out that he already has her number.
At the shopping mall, Vega releases little fluttering drone cameras that look like either Titanium Snitches or robo-Navis that scope out the entire place in a fraction of the time it would take humans. Upstairs, Rutledge releases his army of mind-controlled pigeons (this is our first crime, though? This dude is like a D-class Batman villain) seconds before an itty-bitty drone finds him. He tries to sneak up on Vega when they get to the top floor, but Dash surprises him, and they’re able to disarm him — until his daughter Liz shows up with a gun of her own to tell them they’re too late. An all-too-quick scuffle later, and they’ve killed Liz and subdued her dad — now to the birds!
All the while, the rally is happening. Against Dash’s recommendation, Van Eyck has brought his wife, Olivia; he gives a speech using a TelePrompTer on the inside of his glasses (this has all been very pro–Google Glass, if you ask me). The birds are coming. Vega and Dash use Rutledge’s handprint to unlock the bird controls (bird controls!) and bring them back. Well, that was easy. Vega goes to handcuff and mirandize Rutledge when Dash sees a vision of Rutledge stabbing Vega with a knife and freaks out, pushing Rutledge over the barrier and down to the ground floor, where he dies instantly, the knife falling out of his hand. Now both suspects are dead. Vega tells Dash to leave the scene and calls in her colleagues; Wilmer Valderrama gets nosy about her helper, but she reminds him in so many words that she makes him look really good, so maybe he shouldn’t ask questions. The next day, she and Dash meet in a park outside the city, and they have a conversation about whether they’re gonna do this again. Of course they are.
Thus begins a certainly heavy-handed but ultimately promising new show about the intersection of the criminal-justice system, race, surveillance, the space-time continuum … and hopefully as few Iggy Azalea jokes as possible.